Preparing for the future

31 January 2020

Delegates hear that concerns about the UK chemicals sector post Brexit should be balanced with possible opportunities as work starts on a new chemicals strategy.

30 January 2020

Muriel Cozier

A costly post-Brexit UK chemicals registration system could lead to many chemicals disappearing from the supply chain. This was one of the concerns raised by chemical producers as the date for the UK to leave the EU loomed.

Speaking at this week’s Westminster Energy Environment and Transport Forum conference: The UK Chemicals Industry – priorities  for policy and the future shape of the regulatory system, Neil Hollis, Regulatory Affairs Manager BASF said: ‘A UK REACH system will not improve safety or data and the costs will have to be absorbed by the supply chain. This may mean that some suppliers will no longer make their products available in the UK.’ Such a scenario, warned Hollis, would be very disruptive and costly to the highly integrated chemical supply chain.

Attempting to calm the troubled waters Dave Bench, Director, EU Exit - Chemicals, Health & Safety Executive, told delegates that negotiations on a UK chemicals framework were set to start during the second quarter of 2020 and that they would be done in a ‘rapid way.’ ‘By the middle of [2020] we expect to have more clarity about the UK’s position regarding a chemical’s framework,’ Bench said. ‘The UK’s exit from the EU will provide challenges but also opportunities where the regulatory landscape is concerned,’ Bench added.

But calling into question the feasibility of completing negotiations on the UK’s trading position with EU within the 12 months ‘transition period’, Peter Newport, Chief Executive of the Chemical Business Association said that it was still possible that a ‘no-deal’ scenario could arise. ‘January the 31st 2020 is only the end of the beginning. We are all looking for clarity and at this stage there are still many unknowns.'

Considering the global picture, the UK government stressed that now was an opportune time for the chemical sector to prepare for its future. ‘It’s been 20 years since the UK last developed a chemical strategy, said Holly Yates, Deputy Director Domestic, EU and International Policy at Defra. ‘With chemical production set to rise in relation to the growing population, the UK has opportunity to put in place a chemical strategy that is fit for the future and engages on the issues and concerns of citizens, not just in the UK but around the world.’ The government is set to begin a consultation process on a new chemical’s strategy shortly.

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